Mallorca

Mallorca is a small and beautiful island in an archipelago in Spain called, Balearic Islands. The other Balearic islands are Ibiza, Menorca, Formentera and Cabrera.
What I found to be the most intriguing thing about Mallorca is that it’s a multi-lingual island.
muiltilingual.jpgDespite it being petite, the locals working in the tourist sector speak at least 3 languages, sometimes more! Some of the spoken languages are Spanish, English, German, French, Italian, and of course, Mallorquín. Yes, Mallorca has its own language, which I learned is a dialect deriving from Catalán, the language spoken in Cataluña (where Barcelona is).  Most street signs were written in all these languages. I was amazed by how many polyglots I met during my short stay in Mallorca. This is very uncommon for Spain, which makes this island stand out even more. As if the clear, blue mediterranean ocean wasn’t attractive enough, now you know you won’t have any issues with communication when traveling in this island.

Locals speak at least 3 languages,

sometimes more!

Where to eat
As expected in an island, seafood is fresh and everywhere. Markets are the best way to try local food in Spain. There’s a few markets where you can choose fresh fish and they’ll grill it right there and then. The most popular one is Mercat de Santa Catalina and it’s in Palma, near Plaza Mayor. It closes at 5pm everyday and it’s not open on holidays. Another market in my list, that I, unfortunately, did not have a chance to visit is Mercado Gastronómico de San Juan. It seemed like the perfect place to try different types of food.

In Sollér, I had a delicious and authentic meal with a breathtaking view of the mountains in a hidden alley. Service was outstanding  at Bar Molino but I arrived for a late lunch/early dinner and had no problem finding a table outside. It got busier in the evening, so best make a reservation, specially during peak season.

Cocktail bars & Nightlife
There’s plenty of cocktail bars to choose from in Palma. I had the chance to try a few, including Brassclub which had amazing cocktails and a very chill vibe. Havanna is also a cool cocktail bar in Palma. I specially loved the corky art in this bar but my favorite one is an Italian bar in Santa Catalina named Ventuno. I’m not a huge Aperol fan, I find it to be too bitter but Italians are such experts at mixing it that I absolutely loved the cocktails here. Food looked delicious as well but I did not try it. My only complain is that I wish there was a dance floor or at least more space. Music was too good not to move but there was hardly any space to even stand in this bar.

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Potato quality selfie @ Havanna

Sometimes, it’s best to go with the flow, you’ll be amazed by where the night takes you. I found myself dancing the night away at an Irish pub! Right around the corner of Ventuno you’ll find Molly Mallone. Definitely not the place where I expected to listen to Latino and 90’s music but if you rather not pay the cover for a club, know you can party it up here, at least on a weekend. From here, we walked to a club in the area but I cannot recall the name, it was that kind of night. Never be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. I ended up singing my heart out to THE Spice Girls song with a Dominican friend I made that night and following an Italian group of friends to the next club. C’est la vie!

Catedral
Cathedral in Palma

Where to stay
If you want to be able to walk to the Historic Centre, then I recommend staying in Palma. There’s quite a few bars and restaurants in the area, the Cathedral and beach boardwalk are at walking distance. If you’re worried about staying in a loud neighborhood, Palma is actually pretty  calm and quiet at night. You’ll need to take a bus or taxi back if you party in Santa Catalina, unless you don’t mind the 30-40 minute walk back. Another downside is that if you’re looking to layout at a beach, you’ll need to rent a bike or take the bus since the nearest beach is a small boat port.

Another popular area in Mallorca is Portopí, it’s next to the port, so the beach is not as beautiful as other ones in Mallorca, but it’s surrounded by restaurants and night clubs if you’re planning on partying it up.

I wish I would’ve stayed at least one night in either Port Sollér or Porto Cristo. These beaches are unrealistically beautiful but both locations are far from the action. So it really does depend on what kind of vacation you’re looking for.

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Porto Cristo

Day trips
Sollér & Port Sóller are definitely worth the trip if you have at least one whole day to visit. The small and charming town of Sollér hosts the beautiful Església de Sant Bartomeu (Church of St. Bartomeu) designed by Joan Rubió, an Antoni Gaudí follower. Gaudí is best known for the Sagrada Familia, an enormously impressive church in Barçelona. I’ve become difficult to impress by churches in Europe, but the one in Sollér is so unique since it has Baroque, Gothic and even Modernist elements. An easy and scenic way to get there is the Palma-Sollér train which departs from the historic centre in Palma and arrives in the town of Sollér, next to the church.  You can find the timetable and prices here

caves
Mediterranean sea entering the Caves of Drach

Porto Cristo is a small yet beautiful beach next to the Caves of Drach. The Caves are a must see when in Mallorca, they were formed from the entrance of the Mediterranean ocean. Their discovery dates back to the Middle Ages but they have been conditioned with en easy entrance and exit, as well as lights and stairs for visitor access. The tour includes a live classical music concert, as well as a boat ride along lake Martel, which is inside the caves. I was at awe with the naturally made stalagmites (I believe they’re called) from hundreds, possibly thousands, of years of water dripping from and onto the rocks. These rocky spikes went in all directions causing a perfect reflection in the calm Martel lake. There’s a limited amount of tours available per day so make sure you plan ahead. You can arrive by bus, the cost from Palma as of 2019 was €8.65 one way. You can find the bus time table here. There’s also tours departing from Palma that include transportation, they range around €40.

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Boat ride in the Caves of Drach

Here’s the list of all the locations I mentioned in this post, along with some other restaurants that were referred to me but I did not get a chance to try.

I visited during March, and even though it was sunny it was also windy, so it wasn’t perfect beach weather. The humidity made it quite chilly at night. On the other hand, it wasn’t peak season so I was able to enjoy Mallorca without being overwhelmed by other tourists. Whenever you visit, even if things don’t go as planned (as they rarely do) remember to appreciate the breathtaking views, delicious food and friendly locals. Mallorca is a beautiful place and I’m sure you’ll agree, so always… BE PRESENT!

Budapest

Let’s begin with the common misconception that Budapest is one city. This was definitely my understanding until I learned that Buda and Pest are separated by the Danube river and connected by beautiful bridges. A simple way to distinguish them is that Buda is the side of town with the Castle District and Pest, which is pronounced “pesht”, is the one with the Ruin Bars, aka the fun part of town!

I really recommend booking a walking tour so as to hear all the amazing history behind every district and beautiful castle. I took Generation Tours and was very pleased since the tour guide started by handing out a cheat sheet with some basic Hungarian:

Szia/Sziasztok = Hello
Jó napot = Good morning
Viszlát = Goodbye
Köszönöm = Thank you
Szeretlek = I love you
Jó = Good/Ok
Igen = Yes
Nem = No
Egészségedre = Cheers
Bor = Wine
Sör = Beer

Landmarks:
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Vajdahunyad Castle
AKA Dracula Castle! It is not near the center but it’s next to the Széchenyi Baths.
Ironically, it is now an Agriculture Museum, but the park surrounding it and the castle itself are both gorgeous and eerie; dating back over 100 years!
“Dracula’s character was most probably inspired by Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Transylvanian prince, also known as Vlad III Dracul of Wallachia, who was imprisoned by John Hunyadi in Vajdahunyad Castle for years.”(source)

St. Stephen’s Basilique
Beautiful cathedral in the city center and the biggest church in Budapest.
It hosts classical concerts indoors.

Fisherman’s Bastion
Best views of Pest! Free balconies located in the Castle district in Buda from where a castle used to be. Some cafés in the area taking up some of the viewpoints.

20181003_232952Hungarian Parliament Building
Enormous and gorgeous gothic building by the Danube river. It’s located in Pest, but you get the best view from across the river on Buda. Check out the website for up to date visiting hours and prices.

 

20180729_142502Holocaust memorial
There are a few sculptures of shoes along the Danube River, in front of the Parliament Building. Their purpose is to remember all the Hungarian women, men and children killed whose bodies were thrown to the Danube river during WWII. It’s very emotional and definitely worth a visit.

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Liberty Bridge
If you’re visiting during the summer, you’ll be able to hang out and party ON the bridge. The city closes the bridge to vehicles for the weekend so locals can picnic on the bridge. There’s local artists performing, as well as some hammocks hanging for your convenience.

Stop by the market and get some cold beers or a bottle of wine to share, along with some snacks because there are no sellers on the bridge. Seems like a missed opportunity, but I’m guessing it has to do with this being a sort of new tradition.

 

“My friend and I literally gasped when all the lights on the bridges and castles in Buda were lit .”

Széchenyi_Chain_Bridge_in_Budapest_at_nightChain Bridge:
This beautiful stone-bridge is known for its lion statues. It is said that during the inauguration, a child noticed that the lions lacked tongues. So the architect decided to jump off the bridge after hearing about his unforgivable error because that’s a normal reaction (sarcastic tone). I’m sure this is just a rumor since other people say the tongues can be seen from above. Still, makes for a fun story.
Another thing worth mentioning about Chain Bridge is that locals enjoy the gorgeous sunset on the steps next to the bridge on the Pest side of town, overlooking Buda. Public drinking is permitted, so bring a bottle of wine! The view is indescribably beautiful. My friend and I literally gasped when all the lights on the bridges and castles in Buda were lit.

Ruin bars
I know that after a day of exploring the city, either in the scorching sun or the freezing winter wind, it isn’t easy to go out and party at night, but when in Budapest, RUIN BARS ARE A MUST! I also recommend checking out some of these ruin bars during the day. It’s a completely different experience since you’ll be able to appreciate the random decor best during daylight.  Below are just a few:

20180727_174912Szimpla
The most popular ruin bar in Budapest, and for GOOD REASON. It has maaany bars to choose from. Most have similar menus and prices with slight variations. For instance, some carry craft beers. This is definitely one of the bars with a completely different vibe at day vs. night. During the day you’ll be able to notice all the random objects, plants, paintings, murals, graffitis and mirrors decorating the endless bar. At night, however, you’ll be able to experience the ambiance the colorful lights give, as well as enjoy the local DJs and bands performing.
During the day, make sure you check out the Design shop in the entrance. It has endless creative designs of anything you can think of: jewelry, art, toys, bags, decor, souvenirs, etc. All by local artists. FYI, they’re closed on Mondays. Also, be mindful of the exchange rate

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Red Ruin
Not the biggest one, but definitely worth checking out.

Instant
Known as a nightclub, but you can still go in casual clothes like all ruin bars. It’s up to you if you rather dress to impress.

Best places to get cash:
Remember that Hungary’s currency is the Hungarian Florints (HUF or FTS). As of August 2018, 300 HUF is about 1 EUR. Not easy to remember, so be mindful of the conversion rate. Especially when tourist places charge in EUR.

OTP Bank
They charged the equivalent of about 1 EUR for the withdrawal. The exchange rate was also the best in comparison to other banks.

Food… my reason for traveling!
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For Sale Pub
Do not be fooled by the name. This place was recommended by a local when I mentioned I wanted to try some legit Goulash. This place has a “cowboy saloon” look. It has random decor, hay on the ground, peanuts for aperitive, and you can even throw the peels on the floor. The food, however, is very Hungarian. The portions are HUGE. I wasn’t able to finish my Goulash, so I took it home and had it for dinner for the next 3 days! The food is not only big, but it’s also delicious and quite homey. The Goulash came with all the sides you pour into the stew. It very much reminded me of Mexican pozole.

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Vegan Garden
I’m not sure if it’s only open during the summer, but this cute little garden kept bringing us back. It has all types of food, and of course, a bar… with Hungarian trivia.
My favorite thing about this place is this vegan gyro pizza that I still dream about! I completely adore Tzaziki sauce, and the fact that it’s dairy free, it makes me want to overdose on it even more!


Where to get souvenirs:
Paprika Market
When shopping, remember to be mindful of the exchange rate.
This place offered the largest variety of souvenirs, as well as the some of the best prices. There are other local shops that had more creative designs of magnets, postcards, etc, but Paprika has everything with paprika! From honey to jam and even Pálinka with paprika.

Pálinka is the local liquor. It has a high alcohol percentage and it’s mostly fermented with different fruits such as pear, grape, berries, etc. My favorite was the spicy version I tried at this market. I, unfortunately, did not purchase a small bottle so I could get a bigger one at the airport. BIG MISTAKE. Nobody else carries Pálinka with paprika. If you like spicy food or drinks, I suggest you ask for a sample. You’re also able to taste the many sauces, jams and honey they carry. People at this shop, and all over Budapest for that matter, are the friendliest.

There are plenty other things to see and places to visit while in Budapest. I didn’t include all the gorgeous and unique castles in Buda nor the street art, which I’ll save for another post. I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time in Budapest no matter what you do. Other nearby cities I recommend are Vienna, Prague, and Krakow. Have fun and remember, even when the weather is bad, BE PRESENT and enjoy every moment!

 

Vienna

Language spoken: German
Most people I spoke with understood and spoke English, yet it’s always a good idea to learn the basics when visiting another country.

  • Please = bitte (pronounced bitter)
  • Thank you = danke (like anchor with a d in front)
  • Hello (formal) = Grüßgott (groose-got)
  • Hello (informal) = Servus (sair-vuss)
  • Goodbye (formal) = Auf Wiedersehen (owf-vee-duh-zane)
  • Goodbye (informal)
    – Tschüss (chuce; Austrogerman)
    – Baba (bah-bah; Viennese)
    – Ciao (quite acceptable)

Where to stay on a budget:
Wombat’s Hostel
Cool place to meet people.
Centric
The hostel has everything BUT A/C.
Cheap drinks (including a free one for guests) at the bar.
Lots of places for chilling, including a naturally lit cafe/lounge area used for breakfast.
There’s a larger one in Budapest. It’s located in the Jewish Quarter (District VII).

Where to eat on a budget:
Kolar
Good, local spot in the Jewish Quarter. Kind of hidden so keep an eye.
Good prices and large location, including terrace and many indoor tables.
Has a wide variety of local brews and serves a sort of calzone in pita bread… sooo good!
Service was great and people spoke English, even the ones who didn’t, tried their best to understand us. There’s WiFi so you can use Google Translate for any specifics like dietary restrictions.

Food to try:
schnitzel-the-size-of
Schnitzel (breaded and flattened lamb or pork)

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Sacher cake (dense chocolate cake)

Food-related Landmarks:
Cafe Frauenhuber
This place is a bit fancier, hence, a bit pricier. You can get a drink or simply walk by the cafe where Mozart and Beethoven used to play.
If you’ve saved up for at least one nice dinner, this place serves great local food, including the schnitzel, which is a must try in Vienna if you have no dietary restrictions.

Cafe Central
First coffee shop in Vienna. Freud and Trotsky used to visit.
It’s supposed to be the most centric location in Vienna. Meaning that this coffee house is right in the middle of Vienna.

Figlmueller
THE place for Schnitzel. Reservations are required and can be made through the website. Be prepared for a huge proportion if you get the Schnitzel. It is meant for sharing.
Landmarks to see/visit:

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St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Medieval Cathedral from the Roman Empire. It has since been restored, and like everything in Vienna, is it immaculate.
There are classical concerts performed inside the Cathedral. I recommend checking the website for schedule and pricing.
Most walking tours depart from the Cathedral since it’s a centric location that connects with many shops and restaurants.

konzerte-im-mozarthausMozarthaus
Mozart lived and composed in this apartment in the 1700s for many years. This is an expensive area, and it is said that the cost of living here is what bankrupt him.
It has since been restored and now offers tours.
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Synagogue
A beautiful synagogue, now a Holocaust memorial site.
You can book a tour and see the interior.

Sigmund Freud Museum
The museum is basically an apartment. You literally have to get buzzed in to come in, both to the building, then to the apartment.
Even with student discount, it was more than I was expecting to pay. We opted for not going in since, from what we could see from the entrance, it was mainly composed of books and sketches. I could read these from my local library for free, I thought.

1200px-Wien_-_Schloss_Belvedere,_oberes_(2).JPGBelvedere Palace
The palace is further from the center. You’ll have to take the metro or light rail there. The price for a 100min ride is 2.40 EUR… not the cheapest. Still, you don’t have to enter the Palace, which is now a museum, to appreciate its beauty.

penacho_de_moctezuma_1000x793.JPGWeltmuseum Wien
My fellow Mexicans can enter this museum for free since it hosts “El Penacho de Moctezuma”.  A beautifully hand-made headdress with feathers and gold pieces. It was originally used as a sort of crown for Moctezuma II, the Aztec emperor during the Spanish Conquest. No similar pieces remain in Mexico, and according to the Weltmuseum, this piece would not survive the transatlantic flight. Hence, the free entrance to Mexican citizens to the museum. So bring your Mexican passport or IFE!

image_gallery.jpegRathaus
My friend and I found it ironically hilarious that the city call is called “Rathaus”.
Despite its name, the Rathaus is a beautiful and massive building. It holds multiple events. During the summer, I had the fortune of attending the summer film fest. The exterior is surrounded by pop up restaurants and bars, with plenty of seating facing a large screen playing films. I attended a space opera conducted by Venezuelan conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. Needless to say, this was an out of the world experience… get it? Because it’s a space opera?…. [Crickets].

20180726_124237Street Art
Last but not least, my favorite… street art.
Vienna has an amazing and extensive street art scene that goes along the river.
You can start your walk here. During the summer, they have local bands playing next to the river in the evenings.
To appreciate the art, I recommend walking along the river as far as you can. It goes along the metro line so you don’t feel like you’re stranded and heading to nowhere.
These murals have been approved by the city, but of course, there also a few rebel designs floating around.

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I hope you enjoy your time in Vienna. Other, relatively near,  cities that I greatly recommend are Prague, Krakow and Budapest. Remember to enjoy every moment of your trip, even when getting lost or tired, focus on the good things and BE PRESENT!

More info:
List of all places in Google Maps
Visiting Vienna

A bit about moi

20170430_194749(0)Plaza Mayor in Madrid

moving to another continent was no easy task, but nothing worthwhile is.

My name is Joyce and I was born in Mexico, in a bordering state with the U.S. on the Northwest called Baja California. I moved to sunny LA when I was young where I lived for 10 years before moving to Madrid.

Going from one country to another, and switching languages has the norm through out my life. Living in California, you get to meet people from all over the world, try different foods, experience diverse cultures and hear a lot of different languages. I considered myself an open-minded and quite an international person. I thought I could experience other cultures through people. I was naive.

I lived all over LA for 10 years, working in the digital entertainment field for a few years and had long accomplished my first goals in life: get my Bachelor’s Degree in Film, get a job in the entertainment industry, have benefits such as 401K and healthcare, etc. I got bored of being an adult and decided to drop it all and go teach English in Spain. The timing was right. I didn’t have to miss my brother’s wedding, my family was in good health, my friends supported my decision and I had friends in Madrid who facilitated my transition. It was too good of an opportunity to pass.

Like any big change in life, moving to another continent was no easy task, but nothing worthwhile is. During my first year in Madrid, I’ve traveled to 10 countries and countless cities. I have met so many wonderful people and I’ve learned so much from these travels, some of them solo. I, by no means, consider myself an expert. Still, I hope other people, especially other solo female travelers, will learn from both my advice and mistakes.